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'Santa's out there … You may never see him, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist'

TheJournal.ie recently sat down with the world’s most in demand person – well, one of them anyway.

DAN YOUNG IS a caricaturist for most of the year but, by the time mid-November comes around, he takes on a different role: Santa Claus.

For the 12th year running he’ll be spreading some festive joy at Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin.

One he bleaches his hair and beard and slips on that familiar red suit it doesn’t take him long to get into character.

Dan says he was frightened by over the top Santas when he was younger so doesn’t go down the – *adopts a booming voice* – ‘HO HO HO, I’m the clown in the red suit and I’m going to scare the hell out of you’ route.

He tries to make each child feel special when they stop by, and give those who might be doubting his existence “the reason to think ‘maybe’.”

“I wasn’t trying to convince people that Santa existed or that I was Santa. It was the idea that maybe somewhere, and maybe in my boots, they found the real Santa.

There is a Santa out there … You may never see him, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. OK, you may never catch him at your tree, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. Santa isn’t flesh and blood. Santa is faith and belief. And it’s not just so much that there’s a wonderful person out there who is going to give you a lot of toys, it’s the belief that we can be better than we normally are. And there’s one person selflessly trying to make sure that at least the children have a good day.

Some of the children who visit him are no longer believers and have been made come along by parents.

Dan says that when he meets sceptical children who think ‘Yeah, I’m in on the secret. I know you’re not real, you can try to prove it to me’ he doesn’t try to do this.


“I tell them ‘You know it’s a really nice thing you’re doing for your mom. You’re trying to make it so that she has a smile – so I want to thank you for coming.’”

Dan has seen a lot of children grow up over the past 12 years and says their final visit can be emotional.

“We share a little moment, just the two of us. It usually ends in a hug, maybe a little tear and off they go to enjoy Christmas.”

The true meaning of Christmas 

Dan notes that “Somewhere along the line there became a divide between what Santa represents and what Christmas represents”, noting that too many people focus on the presents.

He says Christmas should be a time for celebration as “Lord knows there’s going to be enough disappointments along the way.”

“In fact, even Santa becomes a disappointment – which is another thing I try not to do. I’ve had 12 years to say goodbye to a lot of people who are coming in for their last visit.

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“It’s always the same – they’re 13, 14, 15-years-old and mom’s there, holding on to Christmas because it’s the children that make Christmas real again for the adults. And when those children grow up it’s another page turned, it’s another chapter in the book. And a lot of parents don’t want to let it go.”

He says he tries to teach children that Christmas is about more than getting gifts.

The true meaning of Christmas – you carry it around with you every time you wish someone a Merry Christmas, it’s every time you open the door for somebody whose hands are full, every time you let someone else be first, and every time you do what your mom and dad ask because it helps them. All of this brings people together – Christmas is real because it comes from you. It doesn’t fall from magic dust in the sky. It happens because this one time of year we believe we can be better than we are.


Images: Órla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

Santa’s not so much a flesh and blood person as he’s a spirit which is somewhere every single second of every single day of every single year. Sometimes you might see Santa looking at you through the eyes of a nurse when you’re hurting, sometimes you might see Santa looking at you through the eyes of your own parent, or teacher who feels that you can do so much more than they ever did with their own life.

“Sometimes you see Santa looking through the eyes of your best friend or a police officer or a firefighter. And, just for a few moments, if you need him here more than anyone else right now, you could be looking at him through the eyes of a man in a red suit, wearing glasses, talking in a grotto to you right now. Just for a moment, I’m Santa. I believe it.”

Santa will have a special message for kids on Christmas Eve on TheJournal.ie. 

Read: This mam’s heartwarming Christmas challenge has gone super viral on Facebook

Read: 7 simple gifts to send your emigrant mates this Christmas

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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